With all the publicity (They Lend What? , Libraries: Beyond the books, 11 Things You Can Borrow From Libraries Besides Books, etc) around Non-traditional Library Items, you may be wondering what they are, how you can get your library started, or simply how to show your patrons how to find Non-traditional Library Items in your area.
There is often a perception that lending items other than books is a new concept, but libraries have been lending art and other non-book items for a long time. Additionally, many items that started as non-traditional are now mainstream, such as CDs, DVDs, BluRays, and in many places eReaders and iPads. With community needs and technology changing so rapidly, the ALA keeps up with the current trends at Non-Traditional Circulating Materials.
Although some librarians may look at a few libraries hosting mega-collections of non-traditional items and think this won't work for their library, non-traditional library collections are for small libraries too! Librarians from small libraries recommend tailoring your collections to your community's need but posting surveys and asking for feedback. Some libraries focus on STEAM kits, others build seed libraries, and others tailor to other community-specific needs. Your Library of Things could take as little space as a single ukulele, or could feature dozens of items ranging from cake pans to wifi hotspots!
Kristi Chadwick offered a series of classes on Non-Traditional Library Items and has provided her slides from the series and Amy Klein has created an excellent Project SET presentation on the subject.
Since there is no standard system for listing Non-traditional Library Items, directing patrons to finding what they need can be tricky. In addition to library network catalogs, many libraries use different means such as a website, either because they are not affiliated with a network or because the complexity of the listing doesn't fit into a traditional catalog format.
There are 8 networks in Massachusetts, each with its own catalog:
Each can be customized through advanced searching options. Try searching for anything that piques your interest! Most common categories are "3D Object", "Equipment/Toys," "Kit," or "Mixed Materials," but you may find them in other categories. For ideas of popular Library of Things options, please read my blog. I recommend cataloging Library of Things items separately, if possible, and including keywords/Subject lines to help people looking by category. Some libraries make a "Library of Things" category and list each item's description as a call number, which is un-searchable.
Some libraries have items not easily cataloged that instead are listed on their website. These are more difficult to find, so I recommend if you're considering adding a Library of Things to your collection, to catalog items. You can make them Non-Circulating or Reference to prevent patrons from attempting to place system holds. When attempting to find non-cataloged items, patrons resort to Googling the name of the item and the names of each library around them, and even then may not get good results.